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Biophys Chem. 2005 Apr 1;115(2-3):89-97. Epub 2004 Dec 24.

Heat capacity effects in protein folding and ligand binding: a re-evaluation of the role of water in biomolecular thermodynamics.

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Chemistry Department, Glasgow University, Joseph Black Building, Glasgow G12 8QQ, Scotland, UK.


Large "anomalous" heat capacity (DeltaC(p)) effects are a common feature of the thermodynamics of biomolecular interactions in aqueous solution and, as a result of the improved facility for direct calorimetric measurements, there is a growing body of experimental data for such effects in protein folding, protein-protein and protein-ligand interactions. Conventionally such heat capacity effects have been ascribed to hydrophobic interactions, and there are some remarkably convincing demonstrations of the usefulness of this concept. Nonetheless, there is also increasing evidence that hydrophobic interactions are not the only possible source of such effects. Here we re-evaluate the possible contributions of other interactions to the heat capacity changes to be expected for cooperative biomolecular folding and binding processes, with particular reference to the role of hydrogen bonding and solvent water interactions. Simple models based on the hydrogen-bonding propensity of water as a function of temperature give quantitative estimates of DeltaC(p) that compare well with experimental observations for both protein folding and ligand binding. The thermodynamic contribution of bound waters in protein complexes is also estimated. The prediction from simple lattice models is that trapping of water in a complex should give more exothermic binding (DeltaDeltaH-6 to -12 kJ mol(-1)) with lower entropy (DeltaDeltaS(0) approximately -11 J mol(-1) K(-1)) and more negative DeltaC(p) (by about -75 J mol(-1) K(-1)) per water molecule. More generally, it is clear that significant DeltaC(p) effects are to be expected for any macromolecular process involving a multiplicity of cooperative weak interactions of whatever kind.

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